The word “shaman” is derived from the Tungus-speaking peoples of Siberia. In Siberian Tungustic, the word is “saman”, meaning “one who is excited, moved, raised,” and refers to individuals who, while in a trance state, visit the realm of the spirit world to communicate with them and in the process gain knowledge and power.
As anthropologists gained a better cross-cultural perspective concerning shamans, the term shaman was broadened to encompass a number of different types of specialists found throughout the world, (including medicine women and men of North and South America, diviners, spiritualists, palm and tarot readers). This common phrase also encompasses the Ayahuasceros and Curanderos of South America, all who are generally believed to commune with the spirit world, whom they contact on behalf of their patient.
The truth of the existence of the spirit world is now becoming more accepted in the western world. Many of the theories or working concepts that we now accept as the inventions or discoveries of modern science and psychology are also to be found in much more ancient shamanic belief systems, and are embedded in healing traditions from thousands of years ago. For example, quantum physics now tells us that we live in a “holographic universe” where all things are part of and mirror the whole, where all is composed of energy, and where this energy can be made to change its shape and form (e.g., from a particle to a wave) depending on our interactions with it.
Shamans have been saying the same thing for thousands of years. Black Elk, the Sioux medicine man was quoted two hundred years before quantum physics, remarking that “we are all one” and that all things are part of the whole, the “sacred hoop” of life. This is a point that all shamans make that we are all connected and we can shape the world we live in to create any reality we want. The Shuar people of the Columbian Amazon have an expression, “The world is as you dream It,”.
The role of the shaman:
The most important thing to remember here is that shamans are human beings, they are regular people just like me and you. They eat food, they use the bathroom, they have emotions and an ego just like me and you too. Through their gifts and training they should have learnt to get rid off their ego, certain trains of thought which will then lead them to a balanced state from which they are able to live and work from.
The shaman’s connection with the spirit world gives them access to knowledge and energy that other people don’t always have. This knowledge and energy they have access to can help to heal and transform people and the world around them however… the role of the shaman is one that serves as a bridge from the spirit world to the everyday world. That means that they need to stay connected to the everyday world and not become evolved to the point of being unable to function in the everyday world. If they can’t do this, they can’t be a bridge between both worlds. The shaman always needs to have one foot firmly planted on the earth.
As a result, a shaman healer will often have many experiences of suffering or difficulties through his or her life… These trials are considered sacred teachings that help keep a shaman open, and humble, grateful and compassionate. (Obviously, these things happen to everyone. However, shamans will often find themselves in learning periods where they receive the message that the trials are required for their growth.)
Even when there are no difficulties in their life, a shamanic practitioner must monitor his or her inner state. They must watch to make sure that their ego is in balance. If a shaman starts to think that they are the reason the healing is so powerful, instead of the spirits, that is an imbalance. The shaman must do the self-growth work of examining any issues that are causing an imbalance. They must remember that the medicine is the true shaman and not them, they are merely a vessel and a bridge for the medicine to do its healing.
Because of all these things, a perfectly good shaman can find him or herself in a period of time or a state where they are not in the best place or balance to help others. A self-aware shaman will stop offering healing during this time. Occasionally, a perfectly good shaman might not realise how out of balance he or she has become. A shaman who has not been trained about it, may not know how to be on the lookout for this.
It is also important for a good shaman to have their own time with and without the medicine to monitor their state and balance. Amazonian shamans should through their working lives do dietas. Dietas are when a shaman ingests over a period of time a specific plant which will give them certain insights into their state, they will also help to get rid of useless or negative energies that are stopping the shaman from being effective in ceremony or stopping the next physical and spiritual evolution of him or her. A dieta is usually performed in nature away from other influences such as people or electricity, sometimes even fire, as it is believed to take away the energy of a shaman through this period of time. A simple dieta can last from 10 days up to months or years depending on the evolution that is required. All plants will show the shaman a connection through to consciousness and through this, they will receive messages, knowledge, wisdom and gifts.
Signs of a Bad Shaman:
Aside from the very human shaman, who might occasionally not be in the best place to help others. You might be wondering if there are shamans that are actually bad, and are willing to harm other people.
The first thing to note is… yes there are, but remember, positive healing spirits will not help a shaman harm other people.
However, there are people who make connections with the spirit world to do harm to others, or to take advantage of them. There are spirits that are not positive healing spirits, but ones who cause problems, or crave power. Shamans can work with these spirits and use them to gain power over others. A shaman will want and need such power also, this is usually their main goal so they are also usually manipulative and will use their manipulative ability to get you to trust them.
The good thing is, they will usually show the same traits as manipulative or narcissistic people in real life… here are a few of those traits and signs to look out for:
If it seems too good to be true, it is too good to be true!
People who are doing this work do not need to talk about how good they are.
Selling their services to you and then following it up with an ultimatum such as: “You have to do this or something bad will happen.” or “This is an urgent situation, you need to see me right away.”
No shaman can promise a particular result… That’s because it’s you who has to do the work in the ceremony, each ceremony will be different and it’s the work you put into it that will give you the results.
Manipulative people avoid having to tell you the whole story, by distracting you from asking your questions.
Beware of shamans that use sexual energy or flirt with you, also be aware this can be a male or female shaman.
Someone with many followers, who seem to be worshiping them, is a bad sign. The word groupies is used for people who follow musicians or rock stars. A shamanic practitioner who encourages groupies, is not doing what they should, to re-empower those around them.
How to Trust a Shaman:
It is important for you to monitor your own reaction to a shamanic healer. A shaman who is in a good place, is likely to make you feel safe and accepted. If there is any reason you are uncertain, take your time. There’s no rush. Here are a few things to look out for.
Keep an open mind about how a shaman should look… As stated before a balanced is one who should have their foot firmly placed not just in the spirit world but also of this world. A shaman generally prefers the outside world to not know that they are a shaman and therefore, will not be wearing the robes and headdress you were expecting. They’re more likely to be a regular person, like the guy in the corner shop, or the middle-aged woman you walked past when you were looking for a shaman.
You find the shaman… This may seem obvious but when someone approaches you and offers you an unbelievably cheap price for a ceremony… it may not be just a good deal… remember this is your life you are putting in another person’s hands. You should not feel forced or persuaded in any way to partake in a ceremony, this is your decision, so take your time and think about it. Tip: let your intuition guide you towards them. The best kind of shaman will let you find them.
A shaman’s attitude to money is also a tell-tale sign… Shamanism is a profession as well as a calling. Traditionally, the village shaman is the doctor of the community, rather like a GP – and a shaman has to make a living like everyone else. A decent shaman will often give you the feeling that if they could, they’d do it for free, but remember they do still need to make a living.
A good shaman is humble… A shaman’s role is to be someone free of ego, someone who is in balance and not of major notoriety… they should not want to be famous and have delusions of wanting to be recognised as the best shaman ever. This also works in a therapeutic setting: they are there to help you tap into your own intuition, and they should only support you with that, instead of overriding you. Prior to your ceremony, you should have access to them to be able to speak with them about your intentions or state before going into a ceremony.
Ask the shaman for his life story… you don’t need to know which way the wind was blowing when they were born, but you’re looking for signs that they have endured some kind of serious mental, physical, spiritual challenges or personal sacrifices, possibly including a near death experience, or a physical disability, or a painful loss. Of course, you don’t wish anything bad on the shaman, but the shamanic path is supposed to be hard (many don’t make it) and suffering is a kind of rite of passage. Also within the shamanic view of medicine, it makes sense that a doctor would know how to heal himself before he can heal others.
A clean and sober shaman… Shamans work with energy therefore… if a shaman is a ‘drinker’ or takes drugs recreationally, that would be reflected in the energy they are holding. Remember a shaman should be in balance which means that they should be able to exercise and show moderation in all aspects of their life, such as food, appearance, attitude, courtesy, humbleness amongst some of the things you should look for.
A sense of humour… A good shaman will be able not to take themselves too seriously and be able to laugh at themselves. They should be down to earth enough to understand innocent humour in themselves and in you.
Get ready to not always hear what you want… A good shaman is not there to empathise with you or “cure” you or dish out remedies like western doctors. They are there to hold up a mirror and lead you towards the real story of you, a place from which you will be better able to heal yourself. Be wary of anyone who promises miracles. A great shaman is always realistic about the help they will be able to give you.
Aftercare… A good shaman will be there for you afterwards… after a ceremony, going back into the real world is when the real work really starts… a good shaman will know this and should always offer an avenue for support, they should always make themselves available for after care.
Always go with your gut… If someone is saying, “this guy is great,” but you’re thinking, “hmm, I’m not sure,” then obviously go with what your heart is telling you. Bottom line, shamanism is an intuitive healing art, so when you meet a shaman, you need to feel an instant sense of trust. This could manifest as great calm, or feeling inspired. That’s when you know that you’re with a good shaman.
We hope this goes some way in helping you to find the right healer, the right shaman for you.